PS5, Project Scarlett Push TV Tech Forward
In the run up to E3 2019, Sony and Microsoft dropped some major news about their powerful next-gen consoles that are slated to launch ahead of the 2020 holiday shopping season. And while the unveiling of two new video game systems will surely have consumers excited for what’s to come, the consumer electronics retail community ought to be just as jazzed for the gaming experience their going to be able to sell—along with the related TVs and cables—in a little more than a year’s time.
As we’ve heard, the forthcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Project Scarlett are slated to bring some serious horsepower to the table. Both new consoles will feature solid state drives, which promise to greatly reduce those annoying in-game load times, thus improving the actual gaming experience. The performance extends beyond processing power, though, with each system reportedly touting the latest AMD chipsets, and support for 8K-resolution graphics at up to 120 frames per second.
Hidden in that latter point is the fact that, in order to support things like 8K graphics and silky smooth video at 120 frames per second, each console will ship with HDMI ports that support the latest standard: HDMI 2.1. Officially launched earlier this year, HDMI 2.1 brings all kinds of new tricks into the mix, including support for 8K60 and 4K120 resolutions, and up to 10K graphics. What makes all of that possible, though, is the ultra wide bandwidth that the latest HDMI standard enables. HDMI 2.1 opens these cables up to allow for 48Gpbs data transfer on Ultra High Speed HDMI cables. That kind of bandwidth will be needed in order to deliver uncompressed 8K video with HDR.
It’s worth noting that, right now, only a handful of TVs on the market are shipping with HDMI 2.1 inputs. That list includes LG’s 2019 4K and 8K OLEDs, their SM90, SM95, SM98, and SM99 LCD TVs, and Sony’s and Samsung’s 2019 8K TVs.
That’s it. But that’s also a reality that’s not lost on the group behind the spec.
“The announcements at E3 confirm what we see with many HDMI 2.1 enhanced gaming features already being implemented in new TVs including Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate,” Brad Bramy, HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc.’s VP of Marketing and Operations, said in an email to Dealerscope. “TVs will also be launching that support 8K@60Hz and 4K@120Hz and the new Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable will be available, so the HDMI-enabled gaming ecosystem will be ready to go for the new consoles. This will be a great reason to upgrade to an HDMI 2.1 end-to-end system.”
In a year’s time, and as Bramy alludes to, I’m fairly certain that we’ll see more than just a handful of sets from three TV manufacturers available at retail. But the benefit here to the retailer is twofold: First, right now you have the opportunity to use these next-gen console announcements as an educational opportunity for the consumer. Even if gaming isn’t part of your in-store offering, you can use these forthcoming consoles as a way to connect with the consumer. If they’re into console gaming, you can use that as a way to segue the conversation towards talking about the capabilities of HDMI 2.1, and how it’s a major improvement over the more widely available 2.0 standard.
And then, of course, there’s Bramy’s latter point, which is the opportunity to help consumers upgrade to an end-to-end HDMI 2.1-ready system. Even if there are going to be more HDMI 2.1-ready sets on the market at a lower cost by this time next year, you’ll still have a certain story you can present to the consumer. The only way they’re going to be able to enjoy the full potential of those consoles and the highly immersive gaming experiences they claim to offer is by employing HDMI 2.1-ready cables and TVs—both of which probably pepper your showroom—along with the next Sony and/or Microsoft gaming console.
Also not to be forgotten here is the content pitch that the new consoles will offer. While the world waits (probably years) for native 8K content to become available for these new high-end, flagship sets, the gaming community has its sights squarely set on the world of ultra-high-res content. Game studios have a leg up in their ability to create and distribute 8K ready content without the need of the expensive camera equipment and so on that a movie studio would require, so the first 8K content consumers will readily have access to will come in the form of video games. Retailers who were searching for the proper pitch for these new ridiculously expensive sets now have the ammunition to sell them, courtesy of the gaming world. So while Sony and Microsoft are busy drumming up excitement for the next year-plus for PS5 and Project Scarlett, retailers ought to ride their coattails.